VIDEO . . . WHAT’S NEW : Versatile Laser Discs Make a Big Comeback

Though this column generally deals only with videocassettes, the day may be coming when it will focus just as much on videodiscs. The high-quality laser disc is making a big comeback, especially the versatile, added-features CAV version.

So before getting to this week’s new cassettes, let’s catch up with some of the more significant recent videodiscs and look at some upcoming releases.

Recently released videodiscs:

“Ghostbusters"--Both a CLV ($49.95) and a CAV ($99.95) version were released in June by Criterion. The CAV-format package contains a photo essay on the making of the film, a comparison of scenes with and without special effects and other features.


“Woodstock"--Unlike the version of this film you may have seen recently on MTV, the Warner CLV ($39.98) videodisc retains its wide-screen ratio, an especially important consideration for this rock-concert classic, which continually splits up the action on various sections of the image.

“The Accidental Tourist"--If VCR users want to own this film now (and not wait for a future price reduction) they will have to shell out a whopping $90 for the VHS version. The CLV videodisc, meanwhile, is only $29.98 (from Warner).

“For All Mankind"--The CAV version ($99.95 from Voyager) of this film about the first moon landing adds 500 NASA stills, footage of other launches, and a one-hour talk by astronaut Alan Bean. Also available as a $39.95 CLV disc.

“The Wizard of Oz"--For once, the videotape version comes with videodisc-like supplementary material, but laser disc-player owners will still appreciate the improved picture and sound of this videodisc version ($24.95 from MGM/UA).


Other recent discs: “Mississippi Burning” (Image, $49.95), a wide-screen version of “Oklahoma!” (CBS/Fox, $69.98), “Dangerous Liaisons” (Warner, $29.98).

Coming soon:

MCA Home Video will offer “Special Collector’s Editions” CAV sets of “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” and “The Land Before Time” on Nov. 16. Both will contain chapter stops and added material including theatrical trailers, profiles, production notes and publicity photographs.

Both will feature surround sound and closed captioning, and “E.T.” will be letter-boxed. The five-sided “E.T.” disc will sell for $59.98, while the three-sided “Land” will go for $49.98. (The CLV version of “E.T.” is already available; the CLV “Land” comes out Sept. 21 for $24.98).


And now the new cassettes:


“Beaches” (Touchstone, $89.95, PG-13) made such a splash as a movie ($55 million gross) and as a sound-track album (more than 1 million sold) that it seems sure to establish a beachhead as a videocassette--especially with female renters. The adaptation of the Iris Rainer Dart novel stars Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey as two women who renew their childhood friendship.

After the tears have been shed over “Beaches,” a disorderly comedy like “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad” (Paramount, no list price, PG-13) might be in order. The guys who gave us that great spoof “Airplane!"--David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker--scored again with this hilariously silly variation on their brief-lived “Police Squad!” TV series. Starring Leslie Nielsen, Ricardo Montalban, Priscilla Presley and George Kennedy, “Naked Gun” is funny enough to forgive the ZAZ team for “Top Secret.”


Directed by Carl Reiner, “Bert Rigby, You’re a Fool” (Warner, $89.95, R) is about a coal miner who wins a talent contest and heads for Hollywood. The sentimental comedy was supposed to serve as a showcase for Broadway star Robert Lindsay, but most critics found it merely foolish.

Films are works of art that shouldn’t be tampered with, right? Well, that didn’t stop Woody Allen from redubbing a Japanese film into “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” and it hasn’t stopped Section Eight Video from redubbing and re-editing the obscure, pre-stardom Sylvester Stallone movie “Rebel” and naming the result “A Man Called . . . Rainbo” ($59.95).

Other movies on tape: The seamy thriller “A Whisper to a Scream” (Virgin Vision, $79.95, R), the Matt Frewer-Drew Barrymore drama “Far From Home” (Vestron, $89.98, R) and the caper comedy “Disorganized Crime” (Touchstone, $89.95, R).

Coming Wednesday: “Rain Man.” MGM/UA says that the 601,912 units of “Rain Man” ordered by dealers constitute a new record for a rental-oriented title (in other words, one priced higher than $30; the tape is $89.95). That surpasses the former record of 535,000 units initially ordered for Buena Vista Home Video’s “Three Men and a Baby.”


Coming Thursday: “Wings of Desire.”


If the nightly reruns of “Saturday Night Live” on Nickelodeon aren’t enough to quell your nostalgia for the older episodes of the NBC comedy staple, there’s good news for you at the video store.

Not only is Warner Home Video releasing 20 episodes from the 1975-1979 golden era of the show ($14.98 each), but there is also a new collection of sketches featuring one of the show’s most popular stars: “The Best of Eddie Murphy: Saturday Night Live” (Paramount, $24.95).


Ready to set out in an RV (that’s recreational vehicle for you city-bound folk). Maybe you’d better first watch “Pat Boone Hits the Road” (MRS, $29.95), a primer on RV basics. Information: (800) 288-8978.